Why Dawn of War II Is Doomed

Posted on 22nd Feb 2009 at 12:21 by Harry Butler with 14 comments

Harry Butler
I’ve been playing Dawn of War II a fair bit since the excellent open beta launched back in January, and I have to say I’m a little concerned. You see, while the single player is a nifty fusion of RPG and RTS and so highly polished you could shave in its gloriously violent reflection, the multiplayer aspect of the game is ridiculously hostile to those new to the game that if it were an animal it’d be some kind of rabid honey badger.

After logging into Game for Windows Live (a mercifully painless experience) the game drops you into a multiplayer match without so much as a loading screen tutorial, and you’re left to fend for yourself whilst figuring out all of the game’s numerous multiplayer gameplay mechanics.

What this results in is a learning curve that’s more of a learning wall, and it’s not an easy one to overcome. Your first game will most likely be an exercise in frustration and it really shouldn’t be this way.

You’re trying to figure out what units you need to build and which point to capture while your opponent (who despite the claimed True Skill matchmaking service, always seems to know more than you) runs off and captures the map. When he garrisons units into a building you’re left figuring out how the hell to flush them out – do you use grenades? A flame thrower? Some kind of anti-building laser? You simply won’t know.

Of course, with practise comes knowledge. After ten or fifteen games you’ll understand the mechanics, know the best unit build orders and have a grasp on how to counter most enemy tactics. But you’ll have had to play through numerous humiliating defeats and for many it’ll be too much bother.

In one particular match I played, my rookie opponent built nothing but scout marines, and was promptly slaughtered by my balanced Tyranid swarm. As I capped the map and camped my ever growing xeno swarm horde outside his base, I asked him if this was first game. It was (GG there GFWL), and he then told me he wouldn’t be playing again and that the game was just too tough to learn.

Why Dawn of War II Is Doomed Why Dawn of War 2 Is Doomed
If you plan on playing Dawn of War II multiplayer, prepare for a rough ride at first.

And there lies the problem. The very best multiplayer games allow players of all skills to have a chance. Look at classics like EA’s Battlefield franchise. Easy to pick up and start gleefully driving around jeeps and tanks, but tricky to master. The same could be said of Team Fortress 2 or Red Alert, both of which are both instantly accessible and very rewarding for both newbs and pros.

With Dawn of War II though the single player and multiplayer are so different and the learning curve so steep, that any casual or half interested player will try the game, get whooped, and then likely never play again.

It’s a problem shared with Relic’s Company of Heroes series, which I happily class among my favourite games ever. I’d try and play with friends to get them interested in coming online and schooling some German’s 2vs2, but every time the steep learning curve and dependence on micro management would discourage them – there’s just too much to learn to become a competent player and, for my friends at least, it wasn’t worth the hassle.

The same is true of Dawn of War II and I’ve no doubt that the enormous gulf in skill between rookie and intermediate players will discourage many to play what is a brilliant game.

And that’s why Dawn of War II is doomed – or at least the multiplayer component is. While the best multiplayer games are easy to pick up but deep enough for it to take a while to master, if you don’t fully understand all the elements involved right from the get go you’re going to have a bad time.

Although persevering pays off, delivering a great multiplayer strategy that Relic will no doubt support for years just as it’s done with the original Dawn of War and Company of Heroes, the hostile environment of multiplayer Dawn of War II will likely deter a great many of the less dedicated Warhammer 40K fans from sticking around, playing the game to its fullest and that’s a real shame.


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UncertainGod 22nd February 2009, 12:27 Quote
The single player game is brilliant, however I don't believe it should have been released as a Dawn Of War game, it's sufficiently different for it to stand on it's own as a single player ONLY franchise that for me is exactly what Commando's 40k would be like if I tried to picture it.

But after that awful open beta I'm going to have to work hard to convince my friends it's worth their money.
DougEdey 22nd February 2009, 12:34 Quote
Italic tags under the first picture are off btw

I had the same feeling in a lot of RTSs these days, mainly though I stopped playing since AOE2 because I never had the time
wuyanxu 22nd February 2009, 12:46 Quote
beta wasn't great, played a couple games doing 3v3 with my housemate as teammate, and i had no idea what to do...... even after the 5th game, still spamming tactical marines and sending them all in, hoping for the best.
Bungle 22nd February 2009, 13:37 Quote
A little early to sound the death of the game. This is a fairly new multiplayer style of gameplay. I think your underestimating people's ability to adapt. Sure there's going to be a learning curve, which for some is going to be tough, but Company Of Heroes has done well (which is harder). No reason to think this won't either, given time.
Baz 22nd February 2009, 15:07 Quote
Originally Posted by Bungle
A little early to sound the death of the game. This is a fairly new multiplayer style of gameplay. I think your underestimating people's ability to adapt. Sure there's going to be a learning curve, which for some is going to be tough, but Company Of Heroes has done well (which is harder). No reason to think this won't either, given time.

Funny you mention that as CoH is my fav online game - I play a good 10+ games in 1v1 automatch a week, but it's criminally tough to get into. I'm somewhat playing devils advocate in this blog post - I REALLY don't want it to happen as DoW2's multiplayer is awesome, but I can see so many people being deterred by the ludicrously steep learning curve that I don't think it'll become as successful online as it deserves to be.
Hamish 22nd February 2009, 18:49 Quote
DoW2, like all multiplayer games, is best played with people you know anyway
random games against random people suck in every game vOv
Jamie 22nd February 2009, 21:22 Quote
Isn't there a skirmish mode where you can practice the multiplayer aspect against AI?
grolph 22nd February 2009, 23:46 Quote
There is. The first time you select Multiplayer, the game says "This is the first time you've played multiplayer. You should play against the easy AI first." And it gives you tips and instructions on the left hand side of the screen.
Sebbo 23rd February 2009, 02:47 Quote
playing through the first couple of missions in the single player helps too, as it teaches you alot of the basics, including unit types strengths and weaknesses. personally i think that anyone who whinges about having their ass handed to them in a multiplayer RTS without having played any portion of the single player part first (the part that actually introduces you to the gameplay mechanics, tactics etc) deserves to have their ass handed to them every single time.
1-0-1 23rd February 2009, 07:22 Quote
Again with the game difficulty being too much to handle - LMAO!

I played the Beta and played the retail version. Currently playing the single player campaign and had a 3vs3 LAN over the weekend with the game. Here is what I observed - yes it does take a while to get into the game to even the playing field. In my case I was the only one playing the BETA and the 5 other guys had no clue. Took two games for the guys from running around like maniacs to actually using the correct units (Two Tyranid, Three Eldar, One Ork player was the final game) to putting up a very good and smart fight.

I generally do not understand what type of players would deem the likes of DOW2 too difficult to a point where they will give up playing the game? Maybe there is a whole can of problems somewhere else (attitude, character and general viewpoint on things out of the norm) and not with the game :p ...
clx 23rd February 2009, 09:41 Quote
Yeah Harry, im afraid im with grolph on this, it seems you failed :/ and are consequently discouraging people from playing an otherwise highly enjoyable multiplayer game.

Every time you click "multiplayer" untill you actually finish a match you are prompted with a massive "this is your first time playing multiplayer, would you like to play a cpu first to learn not to be a noob"

or something to that effect.

Yes, "trueskill" is messed up, i feel Valve could have done it 10x better. but not following simple instructions on the screen also doesnt help.
delriogw 23rd February 2009, 10:13 Quote
isn't this a problem with all multi-player elements to some extent.

not being a seasoned gamer (in the mp world that is), i find that no matter how little time the game has been out, there's inevitably a gap. no matter who i play, they're generally more experienced than me, even if not in that particular game, in the skills required for that genre online. and there's no real forgiveness unless you're playing with a mate who takes it easy on you.

someone did that for me in cod4, and as a result, i got to ease into it, then i was playing in a whole group having tonnes of fun. ok they were still killing me a lot, but that was cos i was still learning, not because i didn't know what the heck to do - it's a lot less frustrating that way.

but the fact is, the real gaming world generally doesn't work like that, and anyone coming new to a game is usually left feeling miles behind.

of course from your description this game punishes more than usual, but in my experience, this is basically the multi-player world
Dreaming 24th February 2009, 12:33 Quote
CoH has epic multiplayer. It is very tricky to get to grips with, but that's because the strategies are so immense. Last time I played online, I was using a fairly spammy tactic of going Axis, defensive doctrine, lots of volksgrenadiers (a *bit* like scout squads in DoW), couple of MGs and building medic bunkers aroud the map. Then your volks run and cap / gank enemy units with weight in numbers and if they are looking unwell you pull them back to the medic bunker (reinforce squad) with an MG inside it. Then you fast tech up to T3 and get your armour out and it's GG.

The only counter really is if the allies go for a fast M8 (like mini-tank) but that's a risky strategy, and even if they do unless they execute it flawlessly your Stugs will be coming out pretty quick.

In CoH you need to learn all the units, all the maps, in depth. At least there is an AI to start on for some fun.
UrbanMarine 24th February 2009, 12:52 Quote
OMG you have to think for once while playing multiplayer!!!! You can't be the guy that wastes 45mins building a base, mass troops and ends up losing. A game with a challenge and a heavy learning curve, sorry casuals this might not be for you. If you want an easy match play the worthless CPU in multiplayer. It's been awhile since a good RTS came out (RA3 was pure donkey ****! Long live RA2). Why play a game if you're just going to quit because it's to challenging? If it takes you a month to master it then that's money well spent.
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